A Community-Based Participatory Research Partnership to Reduce Vehicle Idling near Public Schools

Article excerpt

Introduction

Asthma is the most common chronic disease of childhood affecting almost 9% of children in the U.S. (Akinbami, 2006). The etiology of asthma is complex and includes a combination of genetic, demographic, social, and environmental factors. Exacerbation of existing asthma has been consistently demonstrated to be associated with traffic-related air pollution (TRAP) exposure (Delfino et al., 2004; McConnell et al., 2003; Trenga et al., 2006). Recent research suggests that exposure to TRAP is also associated with new-onset asthma (Carlsten, Dybuncio, Becker, Chan Yeung, & Brauer, 2011; Jerrett et al., 2008).

Recently, childhood exposure to air pollutants during the school day has received increased attention and community concern (Heath, 2011; Heath & Morrison, 2008). Moreover, a nationwide survey found that more than 30% of public schools in the U.S. are located within 400 m of a major roadway (Appatova, Ryan, LeMasters, & Grinshpun, 2008). Diesel-powered school buses at schools represent a significant source of TRAP, particularly ultrafine particles (UFP) with an aerodynamic diameter less than 100 nanometers. Diesel idling has also been identified as a significant factor in levels of elemental carbon near schools (Richmond-Bryant, Saganich, Bukieqicz, & Kalin, 2009). A recent case study demonstrated that school bus traffic significantly increases the total particle concentration and the concentration of diesel-associated elements, including manganese and iron, in the outdoor air near schools (Li et al., 2009).

In recognition of the potential health impact of idling buses and exposure to TRAP at schools, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) and many communities support efforts to reduce childhood exposure to diesel exhaust particles through anti-idling efforts, retrofitting of school buses with diesel oxidation catalysts, and the implementation of alternative fuels including low-sulfur diesel fuel (Hochstetler, Yermakov, Reponen, Ryan, & Grinshpun, 2011). The impact of these efforts on air quality and the health of asthmatic children while attending school remains unknown. In order to help quantify these effects, a Partnership in Environmental Public Health (PEPH) project between the University of Cincinnati (UC), the Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS), and the Cincinnati Health Department (CHD) was formed and the Cincinnati Anti-Idling Campaign (CAIC) was created. The goals of CAIC are to 1) determine if children are exposed to increased levels of TRAP, including UFP and diesel-related elements at schools; 2) develop and implement a community-driven anti-idling campaign to reduce exposure to TRAP at schools; and 3) evaluate the effectiveness of the research partnership and anti-idling campaign by assessing the reduction of exposure in schools and the impact on the health of children with asthma who attend these schools.

The overall CAIC involved two components: research and intervention. The research component was designed to generate air quality and health data to support the effectiveness of the intervention component. The intervention component was designed to educate the community through curriculum-based training and outreach. We have previously reported that idling buses are significantly associated with an increase in UFP concentration outside schools and result in outdoor to indoor movement of particles and elemental carbon (Hochstetler et al., 2011). The objective of this article is to describe the formation of a successful research partnership between academic environmental health researchers and community members that resulted in the development and implementation of a public health initiative to reduce TRAP exposure at schools.

Methods

Formation and Description of Partnership

The overall objective of CAIC was to develop and promote an effective anti-idling educational message aimed at decreasing children's exposure to TRAP and reduce asthma morbidity. …